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5 posts from Development

05/27/2014

Corporate welfare still lives in the East Penn School District

The East Penn School Board, after a surprise motion to rescind, voted again to give corporate welfare to Hamilton Crossings developer thru the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) plan. I say surprise because the EPSB member and crusader for the TIF, Ken Bacher, brought up a motion to rescind his previous YEA vote on the TIF. Unfortunately,  the public didn't find out about this motion until two days before it was to take place. Another interesting point, school board member, Lynn Donches, had made this same motion just weeks before and it didn't even get seconded for discussion. Bacher's motion seemed so scripted as to be a joke. The developer and bond agent were both present at the school board meeting and well-rehearsed to address the one issue that Bacher seemed ready to kill the TIF over. It seems over the next twenty years the school district would come up short ~ $350,000.00 because of changes to the TIF plan, seemingly driving Bacher to deny the developer the gift of $11,000,000.00 in EPSD student education funds. Of course Bacher rescinded his rescind motion as soon as the bond agent told him that the developer would make good on the ~$350,000.00. Seems like the developer and bond agent have a very expedient work arrangement? Couldn't be that this was all worked out ahead of time??? Fortunately the taxpayer and EPSD students have a friend on their side in Lynn Donches. She revived the motion and new board member Rev. Wally Vinovskis seconded it allowing ~1 hour of discussion and even with a questionable stacked deck the vote was close 5/4. Bacher was the swing vote. Unfortunately in East Penn School District, corporate welfare still lives.
For more info check out "stiffthetif.com".

John Donches

Editor's Note:  The author is the husband of East Penn School Board member Lynn Donches.

11/25/2013

Hamilton Crossings mall TIF

By John Donches - There's rumors that the Lehigh County Commissioners will reconsider their previous 6/3 NO vote on the "Hamilton Crossings mall" TIF (Tax Increment Financing), actually a NO vote for $7,000,000 in "Corporate Welfare" to an out of state developer. This developer, Mr. Tim Harrison, led several closed to the public meetings with select members of the East Penn School District Board, Lehigh County and Lower Macungie Commissioners to determine how much "Corporate Welfare" he would receive. The school district and Lower Mac voted YES to the tax handout.
Mr. Harrison has stated many times that if he doesn't get this corporate welfare he will not be able to build. Essentially he is saying property taxes in Lehigh County are too high and he can't afford them. Can you?

Would we actually rather give corporate welfare tax handouts to out of state developers, so we can shop at yet another mall? Or fully fund our schools, county and local government services?
Let the elected officials know what you think about a revote on corporate welfare; call or E-mail.
County

Phone: 610-782-3050       E-Mail - commissionersoffice@lehighcounty.org   

School District
Phone: 610-966-8333       E-mail - cbirdsell@eastpennsd.org

Lower Mac.
Phone: 610-966-4343       E-mail -- rflexer@lowermac.com

CC me too jdonches4@gmail.com

John Donches

09/11/2013

PA House Works to Tackle Transportation Issues

By Rep. Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh/Northampton)
 
Pennsylvania has the fifth largest state-maintained road system in the nation, which includes 32,000 bridges and 120,000 miles of road. Unfortunately, over the years our transportation infrastructure has slowly fallen into disrepair and projects are not proceeding as quickly as we would like. Much of this has been caused by several years of a depressed economy that led to tight transportation budgets, coupled with rising construction costs and a decrease in revenue from the gas tax, mostly due to people driving more fuel efficient vehicles.
 
As you can imagine, it is a time consuming and costly endeavor to maintain such infrastructure. Due to the lack of progress in making repairs or replacing certain structures, it was recently announced by PennDOT that 1,000 bridges across the state would need to be deemed structurally deficient with new or additional weight restrictions being placed on them.
 
I realize the term "structurally deficient" raises safety concerns for most individuals; however, as PennDOT has explained, the bridges being posted are still safe for motorists. They are posting the weight restrictions on the bridges in order to extend the longevity of the bridges and preserve safety.
 
In Lehigh and Northampton counties, 13 bridges are scheduled to be posted with weight restrictions and one bridge (Kromer Road over PA 33 in Plainfield Township, Northampton County) will be closed. These postings should not significantly impact the normal flow of commuter traffic on a daily basis.
 
The posting of these bridges, however, does bring up the larger issue of funding needed to repair or replace many bridges and sections of roadway. The General Assembly has examined a few plans put forth by the governor, Senate and House; however, we still lack consensus on any one comprehensive plan. The stumbling block is the large amount of funding needed to "do it all," and where that money will come from.
 
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I know we will be looking at solutions this fall that will likely be less comprehensive and more targeted to the critical needs of our transportation system with smaller price tags and more doable ways to address funding.
 
Tending to our transportation system is a priority, as it affects the safety of those using our roads and bridges, as well as impacts our economy through the ability to efficiently transport goods and deliver services. I can assure you this will be at the top of agenda as we reconvene for the fall legislative session.
 
For more information, including a list of bridges that area scheduled to receive new weight restrictions in Lehigh and Northampton counties, visit my website at www.JulieHarhart.com and click on the banner in the middle of the page titled "New Weight Restrictions Being Placed on Regional Bridges."

01/14/2013

North Whitehall Airport Matter

In early January, the body overseeing zoning for North Whitehall Township denied the author permission to establish a heliport. View article on wfmz.com.

 

By Michael Selig, MD, FACC, CFI-H - The issue in this case, is that the zoning ordinance lists private airports as a reasonable and permitted commercial use by special exception in the AR zoning district.  An airport is inclusive of heliports or helicopter use by definition of the Ordinance and the State Bureau of Aviation.  The ordinance that allows airports was determined and written into law with extensive deliberation by legislation. The ordinance already considered the potential impact on the community by limiting the number of flights is just 15/week.  There are 2 private heliports in North Whitehall.

If people object so strongly to airports, then they needed to undergo the proper procedure to remove it from the ordinances, so individuals such as myself do not waste their time and money to pursue what is a listed and permitted use.  If people are so opposed to having airports/heliports in their area, they needed to review the ordinances ahead of buying their property and find a dwelling elsewhere.  This goes to Usufruct, the right under the constitution to enjoy ones property according to listed uses.

The land mass, surrounded by farmland and elevation of this property provides a large natural buffer.  It was selected for just that reason. The helicopter is only a single engine, 2 bladed helicopter, about half the size of the medivac helicopters (twin engine, 4 bladed) the Townspeople kept relating to and nearly half the noise level; to that of a lawn mower.

This hearing became a venting session and character assassination vs dealing with the matters of law.  North Whitehall residents have limited knowledge pertaining to these legal matters and to helicopters, so it became an emotional issue for them.  Many local people were rallied up by a low income mobile home park owner, who lives in another Township and financially benefits from her property.  She was worried about her mobile park income, when her mobile home park has greater negative effects on property values.  Private airports and heliports increase property values. Look at how many of them are in Somerset, NJ where some of the most beautiful estates in the country are located.

The principle purpose for purchasing this property was for the Airport.  Before the purchase of the property I spoke with the zoning officer, we reviewed the ordinances who stated he did not see a reason for not allowing it and wrote a letter stating this.

I have served this community for the last 25 years as a solo, private practice cardiologist, did cardiac catheterization for 15 years and genuinely have concern about our community.  Obamacare has closed down most all private practice in our area and has negatively impacted my private practice.  Seeing this trend, I have been transitioning into the helicopter business I started with a friend in year 2000.

Not only do the residents of North Whitehall live in microcosms of indifference towards organ donation, shortages, and disease processes that necessitate the need for transplantation; it is apparent that they are prepared to preserve their "quality of life" without regard to others.  These same people spent several sessions proclaiming their concern only for themselves yet were unconcerned about the 12 years of prior EPA violations on the 309 property, a litany of violations that contaminated their streams and wildlife.  Not one of those people protested or requested remediation of that destruction, not the nurse, the mobile home park owner, or the agricultural land barrens.  Lost in the shuffle was the primary reason for the airport, to provide low cost transport of donor organs and advocacy services so I can continue to promote and preserve life.  This requires at times, rapid access to the aircraft and rapid departure.  Living on the property and avoiding the tower control of ABE allows that.

The matter is not yet closed, I believe my rights were violated; therefore I will pursue a request for reconsideration or appropriate appeals.  I suspect the Common Pleas will not grant me relief, but perhaps at the Commonwealth or Supreme Courts where the matter can be looked at purely as a matter of right and a matter of breach of law, to see if the written law has been properly applied. 

 

05/07/2012

Region's Choice: Reap the Beneļ¬ts or Bear the Burden?

Mayor_Ed_Pawlowski

By Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown

"A rising tide lifts all boats." This was spoken by John F. Kennedy in a 1963 speech at the dedication of a dam in Heber Springs, Arkansas.  He explained that the Greers Ferry project, and others like it, were investments not only in Arkansas, but in the nation's future.   After the dam was built and the lake filled, tourism boomed, businesses opened, and Greers Ferry Lake became one of Arkansas' leading destinations creating a broad economic impact in that region for decades to follow.

I tell this story because as was the case in 1963, I feel that we in the Lehigh Valley are at a similar turning point in the development of our region. 

Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ), provides a tremendous opportunity for the entire Lehigh Valley.  Some see this legislation in a positive light, others in a negative.  Some Lehigh Valley municipalities are concerned about the effects of this new program. While we are trying to attend to those concerns quickly and fairly, I don't want us to lose sight of the big picture.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has given the Lehigh Valley a chance to reinvigorate our largest urban core.  As a region, we can either reap the benefits of this opportunity to renew Allentown or we can bear the burden of squandering it.

Will everyone reap the benefits?  My answer is yes, because Allentown's success is critical to the entire region. It is estimated that over 55,000 people work in the city every day and more than ONE BILLION dollars of annual earned income is generated by individuals who work in Allentown and live elsewhere. Allentown is an economic driver for our regional economy. If Allentown prospers, the entire region prospers, if it declines, the region will decline and our economy will stagnate.   

Allentown officials have presented a plan ensuring that our surrounding municipalities and school districts will not lose their current Earned Income Tax (EIT) from their residents working within the NIZ area. The City's latest proposal not only addresses concerns about current tax income but also shares the city's success with the surrounding municipalities and school districts. The City will develop a Baseline Payment Fund to assure that every taxing body in the region receives its current EIT payments for the life of the NIZ. 

In addition, to make sure the surrounding municipalities share in the upside of future development projects within the zone, all NIZ developers of commercial office projects will be charged $1 per square foot for occupied office space created in the zone. This fee will be assessed on a yearly basis to create a Regional Development Fund. That fund will share revenue with municipalities and school districts annually (much like the casino-revenue-sharing arrangement in Northampton County) and will be distributed according to the percentage of each municipality's residents working within the NIZ area. The creation of this fund will also help address the concern that there would be an unusual movement of office tenants from neighboring communities. It will apply to all of the municipalities, regardless of their position in or outside of any lawsuit.

Finally, let us remember the main intent of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is to generate new economic development and increase regional employment opportunities.  It is estimated that the arena project alone will create more than 1750 construction jobs and 240 permanent jobs upon completion. Kevin Lott, a construction worker from Hellertown representing 470 Lehigh Valley carpenters, told the Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners last week: "It's been three years that have been very, very difficult. We really need this work...I have guys losing their homes. It destroys families." The NIZ offers a tremendous opportunity to help reverse this trend.  If we as a region can collaborate and strike a mutually beneficial agreement, we can get down to the business of offering thousands of desperately needed construction jobs to the Valley's unemployed workers.

Beyond job creation, there are other economic benefits to the Valley if this project succeeds: new commerce, increased tourism, and the ability to attract educated workers as well as new companies to the area.  An 8,500 seat multi-purpose arena will improve the quality of life in the region by increasing our options for leisure activities, our pride in the Lehigh Valley and, ultimately all of our property values.

Will the city's offer of collaboration to share in the benefits of the NIZ be accepted or will the redevelopment of Allentown be delayed indefinitely and the benefits of the NIZ wasted?  No one wins if no one is talking. If Allentown declines, many of the downtown jobs held by non-City residents will cease to exist.

If this region is to succeed, we must come together, pursue our common interests, and invoke the necessary changes that will benefit us now and for generations to come.

The Valley's tide has come in, let us not cling to the shore and miss our opportunity to rise to greater heights as a region.